It’s easy to feel that we often carry a big camera bag or camera backpack around, stuffed with additional lenses, flashguns and other goodies, when all we end up using is the camera itself and our single preferred prime or zoom lens. It can literally be a pain in the neck/shoulder, as well as a real time-waster if you’re exploring museums and other attractions where you have to submit large bags to be searched at every admission point.
Camera holsters or toploader camera bags for carrying a camera body and attached lens have been around for decades, which is a good thing as they’ve been redesigned and refined over the years, to the point where they’re pretty much perfect. They can often be attached to your belt for ultimate shoulder-saving comfort, or carried on a conventional strap.
Available in a wide range of sizes to suit everything from dinky little mirrorless cameras to a pro-grade DSLR with integral battery grip and a 70-200mm f/2.8 zoom, you’re sure to find a camera holster or camera pouch that’s your perfect fit. They’re sometimes available in a variety of different colors as well, to suit personal preferences.
We’ve rounded up the best camera holsters on the market right now, to suit every type of camera and lens combination, as well as budget. Read on and take your pick…
Best camera holsters and toploaders
Think Tank really did have its thinking cap on when designing this holster, which is packed with clever features. The ‘10’ model has internal dimensions of 160x100x152mm and weighs 400g, making it an ideal size for a large CSC or smallish SLR with a kit zoom lens. Better still, it has an extending bottom, with a similar zippered arrangement that you’ll often find in carry-on luggage, enabling the internal height to stretch to 210mm. This makes it equally suitable for a camera with a larger lens fitted, like a compact telephoto zoom.
There are no less than seven different sizes in the entire Digital Holster V2 range, to suit everything from a medium-sized CSC right up to a pro-style SLR with a 150-600mm super-telephoto zoom attached. The 10 model we’re featuring includes two adjustable and removable inner partitions, enabling you to stash an extra lens underneath in the holster’s taller configuration. There’s an additional Velcro-secured accessory pocket inside the top flap and a zippered external side pocket, plus a stretchy front pocket.
The strap is removable, there’s a grab handle on the top, plus an over-sized belt loop which, again, has a Velcro fastening so it’s easy to attach to a belt or other strap. A slip-over rain cover is also supplied.
There are two toploaders in Tenba’s Skyline range which also includes shoulder bags, pouches, a messenger bag and a backpack. The overriding design ethic is that they’re tough and water-repellent yet lightweight and convenient, and ‘great value for money’. The ‘8’ that we’re featuring has internal dimensions of 170x110x170mm and weighs 300g. It’s big enough for a small SLR or mediud-sized mirrorless camera, while the bigger ‘9’ has space for a bigger camera with a 24-70mm f/2.8 lens.
Bags in the Skyline range are typically available in charcoal or light grey with black accents, both of which look neat and stylish. The 8 Top Load has a removable divider for the main compartment, which makes it a good fit for small cameras and an accessory like a compact flashgun. There’s also an expandable mesh pocket on the inside of the zippered flap, and two extra stretchy pockets on the external sides of the bag. The shoulder strap is removable, courtesy of two D-clips, and there are dual belt hoops on the back as well as a grab handle up top.
The quality of construction is very good throughout and, true to Tenba’s claims, the holster looks and feels like a much more expensive item than it actually is.
Quality and style are two words that spring to mind when Billingham is mentioned. Established in 1973, the company has finally entered the holster arena with its new 72 Camera Bag. As usual, it’s beautifully crafted from choices of three-layer waterproof canvas or synthetic FibreNyte with top-grain leather and brass details, including the studs, rivets and strap loops. The shoulder strap is removable and there’s a belt loop at the rear, but no top carrying handle. Internal dimensions are 110x90x140mm and the bag is quite weighty for its size, at 460g.
As with Billingham’s larger camera bags, a quick-release brass ‘ClogBall’ and leather fastening strap enables one-handed opening and closing of the cover flap. This reveals the main compartment with an adjustable and removable divider, which is large enough to accommodate a small to medium-sized mirrorless body and standard zoom lens or smaller items. A front accessory pocket is also accessed via the same flap.
The bag is sumptuously finished and comes in a range of color combinations including the classic khaki and tan (pictured), black and tan, full black, understated sage and chocolate or the lively burgundy and chocolate. Not just a ‘case’ of style over substance, the bag has a surprisingly rigid base and very well-padded sides.
Considering some of the exotic and frankly bonkers names that Australian-based Crumpler has given to some of its bags over the years, the Triple A Toploader sounds almost boring. It’s really not though, and comes in an eye-catching range of red, green and blue color options, as well as plain black.
It’ll just about take a small SLR and kit lens with a bit of a squeeze, and comes with an adjustable and removable divider for smaller compact system or bridge cameras. The main construction materials are weather-resistant 300D nylon on the outside, with a 150D RipStop polyester lining around the main 140x75x170mm inner compartment, and it weighs in at just 179g.
The shoulder strap is easily removable with Velcro fasteners and there are dual belt loops at the rear of the bag, plus a grab handle at the top. Stretchy mesh pockets are featured on both sides and a third, smaller mesh pocket nestles inside of the top flap, ideal for storing memory cards or a small battery.
The bag only comes in one size, but Crumpler also offers Quick Delight Toploader 150 and 300 bags, which are slightly smaller and slightly larger, respectively.
Unlike Lowepro’s extensive and more up-market Toploader Zoom series, the Advnetura TLZ II is only available in two size options. The 20 is suitable for a small CSC with a standard zoom lens, while the 30 (that we’re focusing on here) has internal measurements of 140x102x184mm. That makes it a good fit for a medium-sized SLR with an 18-135mm or 18-140mm kit lens.
Although the holsters are only available in black, they’re stylishly designed with orange stripes down each side and Lowepro’s immediately recognizable logo on the front. Down below, there’s a heavy-duty rubber mat that protects the bottom and lower front side of the holster. The shoulder strap is removable and there’s the usual belt loop on the back, plus a grab handle on the top.
Inside the zippered opening flap, there’s a dedicated pocket for memory cards, plus an adjacent pocket that’s a suitable size for most camera batteries. Last but not least, stretchy external pockets are fitted on both sides. Build quality is up to Lowepro’s usual high standards, making the holster good value at the price.
Legendary Lowepro is famous for camera bags and backpacks. Its current line-up of toploaders includes the Adventura TLZ II in two sizes and the more up-market Zoom AW II in no less than five sizes. We chose the second smallest of the latter, which is nevertheless large enough to accommodate a chunky full-frame SLR with a 24-70mm f/2.8 lens. A removable and adjustable lateral divider enables the holster to alternatively carry a smaller SLR with a kit zoom lens, plus an additional lens or accessory down below. Internal dimensions are 165x130x220mm and it weighs 300g.
The smallest '45' bag in the range is a better fit for a small SLR or mirrorless camera with an 18-55mm or similar lens or similar, while the largest ‘Pro 70’ and Pro 75’ models can accommodate a professional SLR with integral battery grip, plus either a 24-70mm f/2.8 or 70-200mm f/2.8 lens, respectively.
The shoulder strap is removable and there’s a belt loop on the rear, plus a grab handle on the top, and side loops for attaching extra pouches and accessories. One internal pocket is fitted into the closure flap and a larger external pocket on the front has an internal mesh divider. Typical of Lowepro’s AW (All Weather) bags, there’s a pull-out rain cover.
Read more: Best rain covers for your camera gear
Best known for its tripods, Manfrotto has also been steadily ramping up its range of camera bags and backpacks over recent years. It offers toploaders in a number of series, our favorite being the Advanced² which comes in small, medium and large size options. The smallest is most suitable for a compact system camera with a kit lens, while the largest can accommodate an SLR with a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens attached. The happy medium has internal dimensions of 160x100x225mm and weighs in at 250g. It’ll happily play home to a full-frame SLR with a 24-70mm f/2.8 zoom.
To quote a well-worn phrase, the bag comes in any color you like, as long as it’s black. It has a removable handle, belt loops at the rear, a grab handle on top and a clever weather-resistant zip around the flap. A slip-over rain cover is also supplied with the bag. Two small compartments are built into the inside of the opening flap, ideal for spare batteries or other accessories, and there’s an additional outer pocket on each side, although neither has a zip or other fastener.
As you’d expect from Manfrotto, the bag comes complete with a fastening system for attaching a mini tripod externally, although something like a Gorillapod would be a better fit.
Living up to its name, the Manfrotto Street Camera Holster has a stealthy color scheme of olive green, grey and black. And while the outside basically has an urban camouflage color scheme, the inner lining is actual camo print. With internal dimensions of 130x100x160mm, it’s a good size for a large CSC or even a full-frame SLR with a 35mm prime lens that’s ideal for street photography.
The holster is tough and sturdy throughout, based on the ‘Manfrotto Protection System’ which utilises extra padding in vulnerable areas. The quality of construction is very good, combining durable nylon and synthetic fabrics with a wide, detachable shoulder strap that features brass clips and a comfy shoulder pad. Dual belt hoops are featured on the back and there’s a grab handle up top.
Additional pockets include one on the inside of the zip-fastening flap, ideal for memory cards or spare batteries, and an external pocket on each side. However, none of them have Velcro or zippered closures for added security.
There’s a certain old-world charm to this canvas holster that proudly bears the iconic National Geographic logo and comes in light green canvas with contrasting beige straps. It’s quite diminutive, with internal dimensions of 125x125x165mm, making it ideal for a fairly small CSC and kit lens. It actually comes with a movable and removable divider for the main compartment, so if your CSC or regular compact camera is particularly small, you can add a mini flashgun or other accessory and keep them both safely cosseted.
There’s an additional front zippered pocket for bits and bobs, with an organizer for separating memory cards and a spare battery. The main opening flap is a dual-opening affair with a pleasing printed design of an ancient world map. You can open and close it using just the fitted Velcro pads, or use the additional zipper for added security and safety from the elements.
Although nicely made, it’s not the most versatile of holsters. For example, the shoulder strap isn’t removable and there’s no loop at the back, so you can’t easily attach it to a waist belt instead of wearing it over your shoulder. At least it has a grab handle at the top, and loops are featured into the main strap at both sides.
Lowepro's AW (all-weather) bags are designed for active photographers needing solid protection for their gear. Protection from the elements is provided courtesy of an included All Weather Cover which will keep rain, snow, dust and sand away from your cherished camera equipment. A wide padded web handle offers increased comfort, while a double-slider 360 zipper facilitates easy loading and access. The holster can be worn in two ways: across your body using the adjustable shoulder strap, or attached at the waist via the built-in belt loop.
Two sizes are available: the Lowepro Photo Active TLZ 45 AW measures 19 x 14 x 24cm / 5.9 x 4.3 x 6.1in (L x W x H) and will accommodate a full-frame mirrorless camera like a Sony Alpha a9 II with a 24-70mm lens attached, plus a spare battery, one or two filters and compact accessories. The Lowepro Photo Active TLZ 50 AW measures 21 x 15 x 30.5cm / 6.9 x 4.9 x 8.7in (L x W x H) and can take a full-frame /DSLR like a Nikon D850 with attached 70-200mm lens, plus the same amount of accessories.
Tamrac has long been manufacturing a vast selection of quality camera bags and backpacks, as well as ‘toploaders’. Somewhat surprisingly, the current range of toploading holsters boils down to this single Jazz Zoom bag, which is small and lightweight at 130x130x140mm and 130g. It’s ideally sized for a CSC but you can squeeze in an SLR with a kit 18-55mm or similarly sized lens, and the Tamrac will certainly maintain a minimum overall carrying weight.
Although the holster has a removable shoulder strap, it doesn’t have a loop on the back, for alternatively attaching it to a waist belt. Similarly, there are no additional pockets inside the holster for storing accessories like memory cards or a spare battery. There’s a stretchy external pocket on each side, but these are open at the top without any secure fastening. At least there’s a grab handle up on top.
Ultimately, the Tamrac is fairly inexpensive to buy but quite limited in terms of versatility and lacks some of the extras that you might take for granted in today’s market.
5 things to look out for when choosing a holster bag
1. Size matters
Check the internal dimensions of your prospective purchase, rather than the external size, to ensure it’s a good fit for your favoured camera and attached lens.
2. A weight off your mind
A medium sized holster can weigh anything from around 130g up to 450g or more. Check out the weight if you feel it’s going to be an issue to you.
3. Strap happy
Most holsters have a detachable neck strap and a belt hoop on the back, enabling alternative ways of wearing them. A handle on the top can also come in useful.
4. Accessorise yourself
Even if you’re just carrying your camera and attached lens, additional pockets for spare batteries and memory cards can be handy.
5. Security and access
It’s important that the holster closes securely but you’ll also want quick access to your camera without too much fiddling around.
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